The ACT® exam’s Science section assesses your skills in reading and understanding graphs or passages, assessing relationships between data and hypotheses, drawing conclusions, and making predictions. You will evaluate experiments along with their methods and their conclusions. The exam covers topics in physics, biology, chemistry, and earth or space sciences.
To learn how to improve ACT Science scores, it is important to understand the format of the exam itself, and this will help you strategize both your preparation and your method of answering questions.
Format of the ACT Science Exam
The ACT Science exam lasts a total of 35 minutes, during which you will read six or seven passages. These passages are followed by 5 to 8 questions.
Types of Questions on the ACT Science Exam
Questions on the ACT Science exam can be broken down into the following categories:
- Interpretation of Data Interpretation of Data questions makes up about half of the Science exam. You will be asked to evaluate tables and graphs. These questions will ask you to pinpoint trends or use mathematical reasoning. You may also have to translate data from one format to another.
- Scientific Investigation Questions that fall under the category of Scientific Investigation require an understanding of scientific methods and variables. Sometimes these questions will ask you to make predictions about variations and procedures. You should have a basic knowledge of experimental procedures, and you should be able to pinpoint variables and controls.
- Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental results These questions will ask you to draw conclusions based on information presented in models or passages. You may have to make claims and pinpoint information that supports your conclusions. These questions may also ask you to make predictions based on the information given.
These questions are based on certain portions of information provided in each of the passages. As important as understanding the exam format is, it is also essential to know how to read and assess these various forms of information to understand how to improve ACT science scores.
Types of Information on the ACT Science Exam
The information in science questions can be presented in a variety of formats throughout the ACT exam. They can be broken down into these categories:
- Data Representation Information that falls into this category is presented in the form of tables or graphs. You should be able to read a variety of graph formats. Practice interpreting data in various forms to prepare for this type of information.
- Research Summary passages Information that falls into the category of research summaries looks like textual descriptions of 1 to 2 experiments. The questions that follow research summary information focus on your ability to assess the procedure followed, variables at play, whether a control was used, and the conclusions drawn based on the experiment.
- Conflicting Viewpoints passages This type of information presents hypotheses and viewpoints that are in conflict with one another. You have to assess why an experiment or hypothesis is occurring. Why is the scientist conducting the experiment? What are their motivations? You also have to consider whether the conflicting information consists of incomplete data.
Tips to Improve ACT Science Scores
Here’s a breakdown of some valuable tips that can help you improve your ACT Science score.
1. Spend time on practice exams and gain experience.
One great way to improve your ACT Science score is by practicing the types of questions that you will experience on test day. Dedicate time in your practice to recognizing the question types and the formats information is given in (listed above). If you can identify the question types and the informational formats, you may be able to make predictions about the skills necessary for answering the questions.
2. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the graphs.
It is common for students to panic when encountering graphs presented in a complicated form. The ACT exam is known for having odd and foreign-looking graphs. In order to prepare yourself fully for the graphs that you would encounter on the ACT exam, be sure that you spend some time familiarizing yourself with practice tests that are realistic to the style level of difficulty that you will work with on the official ACT exam.
3. Work on your time management skills.
Perfecting your time management skills on the ACT Science exam will allow you an opportunity to go back and check your work. As you practice, be sure to do so under the timed regulations you will work with on the official ACT exam day.
It is important to pinpoint your weak points early on. Find out what slows you down in your practice work, and work on those areas to avoid running out of time on your official ACT exam. Working on your time management skills is also a great way to minimize stress when taking the official exam. If you have taken many practice exams without running out of time, then you have eliminated one more thing to worry about on test day.
4. Read each question carefully.
You must pay attention to the details of each question and answer choice throughout the ACT Science exam. This is an important tip to minimize any silly mistakes you might make.
5. Don’t let scientific jargon stress you out.
Some questions will have complicated wording or scientific jargon that you were unfamiliar with. If you come across a question that focuses on a topic you are unfamiliar with or presents information in a way that you were unfamiliar with, try your best to simplify things and break it down into simpler terms.
If the wording of a specific question is confusing, it is a good idea to look at the answer choices. Sometimes you can clarify what the question is looking for by reviewing the answer options. You may have to make inferences based on surrounding information.
6. Check your work by going back into the passage or graph in question.
One last tip to improve your ACT Science score is to go back to check your work. Your answer choice should be supported by information provided in the graphics or the text. Even answers that require inference-making can be supported by the text or graphic that accompanies a given question. You can improve your score by ensuring that you do not use any outside knowledge when answering questions throughout the ACT Science exam.
As you prepare for the ACT Science exam, consider implementing these tips into your study work. You can use UWorld’s ACT Prep Course to ensure that your practice work is realistic to the style and level of difficulty you will experience on the official ACT exam. Our prep course offers thousands of sample questions to gain experience on and get comfortable with the format for the exam.
The prep course also offers performance tracking tools to pinpoint any weak points you may have throughout the ACT Science test. By drilling these areas, you are sure to improve your scores. Lastly, the prep course offers detailed answer explanations to offer a deeper understanding of the concepts and skills that are more complicated or unfamiliar to you.